A wine and tapas lounge with a twist

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I happened to stumble upon Chimole Wine & Tapas lounge when my wife and I were out for an early evening stroll in downtown Leesburg in Northern Virginia. Since I had to write a tapas restaurant review for the class, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and and sample the food. What also interested me was that it was next to an Art Gallery with the same name. So we walked in to check it out.

Since it was a weeknight, the place was empty. We were very graciously greeted by a hostess who seated us. My wife doesn’t partake in alcohol and I only sample it occasionally so we usually do not order wine or beer and get right away to food after asking for iced water. We did the same this time. The food menu was not very extensive so it was quite easy for us to quickly make our choices.

We ordered Beef Empanadas Tapas, seafood ceviche and Turkey Meatballs Tapas which was the special.

While we were waiting for our food to arrive, the owner Yovanna Reiser came over and introduced herself to us. While chatting with her, we found out that she is an expatriate from Honduras. She opened an art gallery in August 2012 in Leesburg featuring art and crafts from Honduras and then expanded her business by opening the wine and tapas lounge offering Latin American Cuisine just last year.

She uses authentic latin American recipes in her restaurant and an interesting tidbit we heard was that she tends the bar herself. Although I wanted to keep chatting with the lady, our food had started arriving and my wife was hungry.

We sampled the ceviche first which was delicious. It was Sea Bass & Shrimps ceviche marinated with Cilantro, Red onions, Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, and citric juices. The beef empanadas were good as well as the turkey meatballs topped with gravy and served with couscous.

But the best part was the dessert, we finished off our meal with the Chimole Tres Leches which was outstanding. We probably would have ordered another one if we had room for it in our stomachs.

Overall, the food tasted excellent and it’s presentation was great. The portion sizes were smaller than the usual small plates but filling enough for us.

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After dinner, we also toured the art gallery which was an interesting experience. All art and other items sold at the gallery are imported from Honduras and represent the latin American culture

The restaurant’s décor itself was cozy and tasetful with art from Honduras featured on the walls inside the restaurant. The front area had a bar and several tables with 2 small rooms in the back for private parties. It also had a cigar patio in the back, outside.  The lounge also showcases live music that starts around 6:30 in the evening on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Overall I believe it’s a great addition to the Leesburg downtown’s dining experience.

Price Range: $5 – $15

Location: 10 South King Street, Leesburg, VA.

 

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Tapas on a Truck!

The DC food truck scene is quite colorful with a huge selection. However, unfortunately, it doesn’t extend out as far as Reston in Northern Virginia where I work. So I’m mostly missing out on the deliciously unique foods my friends who live or work in DC keep raving about.

On a Thursday afternoon when visiting a friend in Rosslyn when I was on leave from work, I begged him to take me to a good food truck so I could sample the goodness I had been missing. My friend took me to N Lynn Street where around five or six different kinds of food trucks were visible with people lined up in front of them waiting to order food.

There was also an open area on Wilson Boulevard with a good number of chairs and tables, apparently put there by the city so food truck lovers can enjoy their bought meals under the sun.

It was just my luck that Tapas truck was there that day. My friend had been raving about their garlic fries so I decided to give them a try.

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I liked the way the truck was painted, it looked tasteful. There was a menu posted on the side, which apparently keeps changing seasonally. It took a while for our turn to come as the line was rather long. I studied the menu meanwhile.

The menu contained 5 tapas of which we could either buy one at the listed price, buy two for $8 or three for $10. I opted for three tapas and ordered the garlic fries, corn fritters and crab empanadas. Three tapas for $10 in Rosslyn are not too shabby in my opinion.

We walked over to the seating area on Wilson Boulevard to enjoy our food and enjoy we did. It was a great, sunny afternoon with a gentle breeze blowing. Gentle enough to not cause our napkins to fly away.

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Garlic fries

The food was served in a Styrofoam container with three sections. I tried the garlic fries first and the first words out of my mouth when I could speak were “Oh my God”. Did I mention I love garlic? Although a bit extra salty, but they were crunchy and had plenty of garlic flavor to satisfy my taste buds. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such delicious fries anywhere.

Corn Fritters

Corn fritters

After savoring the first few bites, I decided to save the most of the goodness for last and started digging into the crab empanadas which were good. The corn fritters on the other hand were a big surprise. A bit on the sweet side, they were delicious. I had to go back to finishing off my fries so I could eat the fritters last.

The food was very filling and although I managed to finish all of it, I doubt I will order three tapas when I visit this food truck again. For lunch, two are probably enough. Or I’ll take some of it home for dinner. In any case, the food was really good and I consider my $10 well spent.

Price: $5 – $10

Location: Varies

Walking through Russian mazes

Ever since I was 13, there had been talk about my mother’s family having some Russian ancestry, but I only found concrete proof two years ago. I learned how to make the family’s version of Russian salad, but my reporting experiences on Russian small plates taught me that multiculturalism in the D.C. Metro area can still pack a punch, even for a local such as myself.

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Sampling tapas in McLean

With its tasteful décor, Evo Bistro in McLean is apparently always busy on Wednesday evenings.

“This place is bustling on Wednesdays. Wine bottles are half priced …. a pretty good deal for wine lovers like me” said Liz McCarey, a customer visiting from Arlington.

evo1Accompanied by a friend, I visited this restaurant on one such evening to sample it’s Mediterranean style tapas. My friend was eager to try out the restaurant’s automated self-serve wine serving machine that he had read about online. At Evo Bistro, customers can sample any of the wines offered by loading up a wine debit card and using it to run the tab.

We ordered several tapas that were nicely presented, flavored, and cooked well. The tapas were $6 each due to Happy hour; their prices are higher during regular hours.

The first dish that arrived was Grilled Artichokes. Marinated with jalapeño aioli, the baby artichoke halves were quite delicious.

Chicken Kebabs was another dish we ordered, which were served with hummus and tasted better than average. We also had lamb sliders which tasted pretty good.

evo2The highlight of my evening was a dish called Les Moules. It consisted of mussels sautéed in olive oil with tomato, garlic, basil, oregano and feta cheese.  Besides having basil which is one of my favorite herbs, the dish was also topped with a sprinkling of chili flakes. It had just the right amount of kick in it without being too spicy, tasted exceptional and I would definitely recommend it.

My friend tried various wines as they let you try one ounce of a bottle of wine to see if you like it or not, even with bottles that cost above $200. His tab ran high but he was quite happy with the experience.

We also had an opportunity to chat with the executive chef, Ticara Smith, who joined the restaurant in 2011. Her focus is on a seasonally inspired Mediterranean menu and she not only supervises the food preparation but also handles the menu creation and wine pairing.

The service was outstanding from start to finish as well as the restaurant’s ambiance being warm and inviting.

“This is one of our favorite local hang-outs; a go-to location for McLean residents”, remarked a local resident when I asked how often she visited this place.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experienceand will probably be back there for more.

Small Plate Recipes you can make at home!

By now you might’ve figured out that we at PetitePlatesDC (myself included) love small plates. It’s also not a surprise that we are a group on a budget – living the grad school life.

If you are in a similar financial situation or just like saving a few bucks, we feel your pain (no really, we do) but you don’t have to miss out on the great taste of tapas or the fresh, crisp flavors of mezze if you’re on a budget – just make your own! There’s literally nothing you can’t create with a trip to the grocery store and an hour in the kitchen.

So, I’ve collected a few recipes that are easy to make and delicious to eat – by yourself or with friends!

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Childhood small plates poll

Hi everyone,

My next blog post will be about zakuski, which are traditional Russian small plates. I want to do a poll related to the blog post. This poll is available from now until next Sunday.

Happy polling!

Correction: It looks like people can still poll, even though Sunday passed.

 

Dissatisfied with French small plates

I grew up eating a lot of French food. Examples include quiches and Niçoise salads. When I learned recently from my mother that Bread and Chocolate has a small plates section on its menu, I was pleasantly surprised. I had never heard of French small plates before.

But I noticed many international elements in that section. In general, the restaurant has a lot of French food items, but it also covers other countries in its menu. The nagging question was, how French is this going to be? Going to Bread and Chocolate’s branch in the Foggy Bottom area, I got my answer. The menu is still a little disorganized, so if you want mesclun salad or some form of a quiche, general manager Eugene Kouadio said that those are still small plates. The audio interview is mostly in French, which you can listen to here. However, I also provided a translation of the interview: Translated interview for French small plates blog post.

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There is such a thing as too much good food

Like a lot of people, I research restaurants online before visiting. Looking up reviews on Yelp or reading about a place in a local newspaper or magazine can give a pretty good idea of what to expect, and if it’s worth your time (and money). There’s nothing more disappointing than anticipating a delicious meal out only to be disappointed by the food and/or service.

Such was the case with Lincoln. Located near McPherson Square, it serves seasonal American small plates with ingredients locally sourced from farms in neighboring states. Recently, Lincoln updated their menu for the spring season so I took to the Internet to see if it was worth checking out for the blog.

Lincoln has been featured on numerous lists for its food as well as its bar that comes complete with the city’s first moonshine menu and its own infusion room is run by master mixologists. Being on these lists adds to the notoriety of the establishment, and puts a stamp on the quality of the menu.

The reviews on Yelp were mixed, but I figured that was to be expected. I understand that online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt because I feel as though what one person thinks is amazing another might think of as boring or rude. Everyone has different tastes. Most of the bad reviews had some kind of complaint about the service, but all said the food and drink were good. From the reviews, the highest rated feature of Lincoln was its décor.

Another way I judge restaurants before visiting is through Facebook. How many likes does it have? If the establishment is relatively new it might not be a good indicator, but since Lincoln opened in 2011 and has over 3,000 likes – I figured they must be doing something right.

Ultimately though, hearing personal recommendations is what I listen to most. When I mentioned Lincoln to a friend who’s a self-described foodie, she said I had to try it – especially since Southern food is my favorite.

I’d enlisted my two roommates to check it out with me on a Wednesday night (got to celebrate hump day!). The dining room was full of families, couples and groups of friends, so I was glad I’d made a reservation in advance.

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the floor at Lincoln. Nice touch!

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Honest Abe looks over the dining room at Lincoln.

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Small plates are for brunch, too

Sometimes, you can read all you want, but it doesn’t substitute experiences in the real world. Thanks to a Twitter response from @Ariel_Yong, I decided to go to Graffiato. I wrote about this celebrity chef’s Italian (mostly) small plates restaurant in an earlier post, but it was time for me to eat my words.

Entering on a Saturday at 1:00 p.m., I expected there to be a lunch menu, but it was only brunch, to my surprise. However, my server, Becca, told me that the menu still has small plates for brunch. I tried the broccolini, but the hanger steak wasn’t on the brunch menu. So I ordered the pumpkin bread pudding instead.

While I was waiting, I was sitting at the bar and watching the people in the kitchen do their work. I noticed a woman doing prep work. I know from previous experience that this task is something patrons don’t usually notice, so it was nice to see it again after many years. She was dicing a lot of fresh mozzarella, which I’m guessing is mostly for the multiple pizzas this restaurant offers.

The décor has sophisticated colors, mainly black and white. The napkins and the menus are the color of caramel cardboard. But the flat screen TV adds a more casual touch.

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The décor at Graffiato (Photo credit: Selma Khenissi)

A similar atmosphere pervades the food. The broccolini looked very festive, but crowded the serving plate. Even though a smaller square plate offered me the possibility to solve that problem, it would have felt odd to do so.

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Broccolini pasta (Photo credit: Selma Khenissi)

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